Sandia National Labs Achieves Breakthrough Performance Using NVIDIA(R) Technology For Scientific Visualization

March 10, 2005

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. and SANTA CLARA, Calif., March 17 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Sandia National Labs, Kitware Inc., and NVIDIA Corporation (Nasdaq: NVDA – News) today announced a breakthrough in large data scientific visualization, attaining rendering rates of over 1.5 billion polygons per second.

The breakthrough was achieved with ParaView (, an open source visualization application developed by Kitware Inc. (, processing data in the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) program at the three national laboratories: Sandia National Labs (SNL); Los Alamos National Labs (LANL); Lawrence Livermore National Labs (LLNL).

Visualization is an integral component of ASC and is essential to understanding the massive data produced in simulations for national security. One of the world’s largest polygonal datasets is a 473 million triangle isosurface generated from a Richtmyer-Meshkov simulation run at LLNL (LLNL: UCRL-MI-151066). In a recent test with this isosurface, Sandia utilized ParaView on 128 visualization nodes (workstations), each comprised of the following:

  • NVIDIA Quadro FX 3400 PCI Express graphics boards
  • Dell Precision 470 workstations equipped with Dual 3.6 GHz Intel Xeon EM64T processors, and 4GB of RAM
  • InfiniBand 4x HCA interconnect, allowing the data to be processed across the 128 nodes

ParaView performed various operations on the data including coloring, t-stripping, clipping, and glyphing at interactive rates. Rendering of the surface was performed at an aggregate rate of over 1.5 billion polygons per second, which equates to three-four frames per second.

For typical simulation results, ParaView streams images from a cluster to the user’s desktop at about 15 frames per second. This level of performance is enabled by the latest generation of NVIDIA graphics hardware and fast PCI Express read-back rates. Sandia currently has over 260 NVIDIA Quadro FX 3400 PCI Express graphics boards installed in its visualization clusters.

“The combination of ParaView and high-performance graphics hardware has opened up a new level of interactivity with large data sets, helping researchers around the world to better visualize many types of data — from global climate modeling to intricate fluid dynamic simulations,” said Brian Wylie, visualization team leader, Sandia National Labs.

ParaView is also being used by the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) on tiled display systems for the analysis of physics based simulations in armor/anti-armor applications. ARL’s large projection and LCD display walls are driven with NVIDIA Quadro FX 3000G graphics boards installed in AMD Opteron-based visualization clusters. In this case, the US Army is able to leverage both the graphics processing and framelocking capabilities of the NVIDIA hardware to display large datasets across a number of displays or projectors for improved image analysis.

“When calculations require tens of CPU years and produce terabytes of output, parallel visualization is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity,” said Jerry Clarke, scientific visualization team leader, US Army Research Laboratory. “ParaView on our visualization clusters is an important part or our physics-based simulation environment and our future.”

About ParaView
ParaView is built on top of the popular Visualization Toolkit (VTK) and has the goal of being the world’s most scalable visualization platform. ParaView leverages cutting-edge parallel rendering algorithms, contributed by researchers at SNL, and leading technology in commodity PC clusters and graphics hardware to interactively visualize some of the world’s largest datasets.

The national laboratories have unique requirements in the area of scalable visualization. The sponsorship of this open source, distributed memory, parallel visualization architecture was first fostered by Los Alamos National Labs. Given the similar needs of the laboratories, all three laboratories (Los Alamos, Sandia, and Livermore) currently contribute to the development of ParaView and the underlying VTK toolkit.

About Sandia
Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin company, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

NVIDIA Corporation is a worldwide leader in graphics and digital media processors. The Company’s products enhance the end-user experience on consumer and professional computing devices. NVIDIA graphics processing units (GPUs), media and communications processors (MCPs), and wireless media processors (WMPs) have broad market reach and are incorporated into a variety of platforms, including consumer and enterprise PCs, notebooks, workstations, PDAs, mobile phones, and video game consoles. NVIDIA is headquartered in Santa Clara, California and employs more than 2,000 people worldwide. For more information, visit the Company’s Web site at

Kitware, Inc. is a leading software development company providing products and services in the areas of medical image analysis, visualization and 3D graphics, supercomputing, computer vision, open publication, and software quality process. Kitware is known for its advanced open source software tools such as the widely used Visualization Toolkit (VTK), Insight Segmentation and Registration Toolkit (ITK), and the CMake build management software. Established in 1998, Kitware is rapidly growing to support top research and development clients around the world; including such prestigious customers as the US National Labs (Sandia, Los Alamos, Livermore, and Argonne), the National Institutes of Health, the Army and Air Force Research labs, and a variety of academic, commercial and governmental research labs. Our commercial customers range from Fortune 500 oil and gas companies to small medical imaging start ups.

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